One Government official would like to see students not only leaving school certified in the traditional areas of Mathematics and English with a foreign language, but also with Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs).

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harry Husbands suggested this today, as he addressed the fourth annual Edu-Nation discussion at the Queen???s Park Steel Shed.

The event, which targeted fifth and sixth form students, as well as tertiary level students, was themed: Education and Economic Opportunities in CARICOM: Barbados on the Eve of Its Fiftieth Year of Independence.

Reminding students that life would not be easy and there would be challenges going forward, Senator Husbands said youth unemployment in Barbados and the region was at crisis level, something recognised by the International Labour Organization.

Stressing that finding a job would be more challenging than it was for his generation, he added: ???It is more challenging for you to find employment, even if you have the qualification and that is a global crisis. It is not only a crisis in Barbados??????

While stating that students might seek to blame Government, the Opposition and others for the crisis, he cautioned that this, however, would not help to confront the challenges. Instead, the former trade unionist and teacher suggested there might be a need to change their career several times, something that might be demanded of them.

Mr. Husbands recommended that they engage in continuous training and learning, and explained that even when they volunteered during the summer vacation this training could be placed on their curriculum vitae.

???There are so many people leaving school with similar qualifications??? but what separates you from that other person is the fact that you [might have] spent time volunteering with the Barbados Cancer Society or with the Diabetes Foundation. Your employer sees some aspect of your career ??? of your background and training that is attractive. So, every opportunity you get to learn something new, to participate in a programme like this and to network??? that preparation stands you in good stead,??? he pointed out.

Students were told that CVQs offered them scope as they provided opportunities to move across the region. ???That CVQ means the same thing in Trinidad as it means in Jamaica, Guyana???in any CARICOM member state, and you have a skill. When you present that to your prospective employer??? whether that employer is in Barbados or St. Vincent or Dominica???you have to be prepared to go where the jobs are. So, this free movement of people in the region, free movement of labour, if there are jobs in Jamaica, then that is where you can be without much harassment or much stress,??? said Senator Husbands.

The Parliamentary Secretary added that despite the challenges outlined, he remained confident that Barbados was putting in place the tools necessary for them to meet the challenges and overcome them.

The forum was moderated by Principal of Queen???s College, Dr. David Browne, who was joined by a panel that included Barbados??? Ambassador to CARICOM, Robert Morris; Executive Director of the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries, Lisa Cummins; Officer-in-charge of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy Unit, Gladys Young and student of Deighton Griffith Secondary, Abreena Redding.

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